Berry Bros & Rudd have what is arguably the best list of Burgundy in the country, largely thanks to Jasper Morris MW (though Roy Richards should also get a mention here, and it was David Roberts MW that got them the Cathiard many years ago). They also know how to put on a tasting. And they also have more than their fair share of customers; if reports are true then pretty much everything I tasted this afternoon was already sold.
This week is the Burgundy circus. All of your major merchants, and some of the smaller ones too, hold their tasting of the 2015 Burgundy vintage. In the past I’ve done all, or most, of the circus; this year I’ve just done BBR which, if you’re going to do just the one, is probably just the one to do (my J&B invite always gets lost in the post along with my DRC invite from Corney’s). I thank BBR for letting me in.
The 2015 Burgundy vintage has been hyped from the start, and maybe with some reason. I was in the Yonne and the Côte d’Or just days before the harvest. I saw the storm that devastated some of Chablis, and days later saw the quite exceptional fruit that was waiting to be picked further South.
So: what are these much-hyped and already sold wines like?
Let us put the case that 2005 Red Burgundy is a 10/10 vintage. Let’s give 2010 9/10 and 2009 8/10 (though many of the latter will trump the former in time; this is the folly of scoring vintages). Is 2015 a 10/10? No. But there are some crackers. Herewith a precis:
There is some over-ripeness in some 2015s. Pick a day late and, well…you can’t turn the clock back.
There are men (and women) and boys (and girls). Viz: Etienne Grivot, Ghislaine Barthod, Thierry Brouhin. Etienne Grivot’s wines are stunningly good, if marked a little by heat. There are few better addresses in Vosne. Ghislaine Barthod’s Chambolles are so true to form that tasting them almost took me back to her cellar. And I’ve always been a fan of Domaine des Lambrays; in 2015 these wines have the mark of a winemaker who knows exactly what he is doing.
Then there is Domaine Cathiard. Along with the Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, this is the only domaine that has come good on promises of “the next Jayer, the next Rousseau” etc, etc. The wines are immensely popular, and extremely expensive. And, whilst I do not deny that they are the epitome of sensuality in Pinot, I’m not convinced. If you like the Cathiard style then 2015 is Cathiard distilled: a velvet sheen of love. But, to me at least, they lack a little character. You manage to get Audrey Hepburn back to your place and she wants to watch “Come Dine With Me”.
Stems. If you want to know what stems taste like then Etienne de Montille is your man (or, rather, Brian, the guy that makes the wine). And Brian does it with some considerable panache – the 2015 de Montille wines (that I tasted: Beaune Sizies, Volnay Taillepieds and Nuits Thorey) were fantastic. If Cathiard does “boring sensual” then Etienne (or Brian) does “slutty sensual”, and quite brilliantly.
If my understanding is correct, these wines didn’t need selling, they just needed allocating. If I were selling these wines my naps would be:
Domaine Michèle & Patrice Rion: this domaine has long been the most under-rated on BBR’s list. They are never seen at “trophy” dinners; no one talks about “Rion” with awe in their voice. But they are exceptionally clean, pure and elegant wines which repay time in the cellar with considerable dividends. Their 2015s are excellent (and wines for grown-ups).
Domaine Guyon: a tip: salesmen with half a brain will examine the Burgundy Buyer’s account to see what he buys. These wines are maybe a little too polished for my palate, and reminded me of younger vintages of Léoville-Poyferré in terms of character, which is to say that they are flashy yet with substance (and that I’m chippy). These are rather good.
Domaine Francois Buffet: my pick of the day. You see: Volnay is supposed to taste of Volnay. And the vagaries of winemaking should lead you to a style that is a person, not a commercial trick. The village Volnay took me, in spirit, to the Cellier Volnaysien – the centre of Volnay. The Clos de la Rougeotte (a Clos in Fremiets) combines sensual Volnay chunky sweetness with something ethereal that I can’t describe; the Taillepieds is a step up, with a touch of stemmy pepper on it that completes, rather than diverts, the wine’s character. Proper Burgundy. Made by someone, and not a trick.
10/10? That’s not really the point in Burgundy, at least as far as I’m concerned. What is clear is that 2015 gave many growers the sort of fruit with which they could make some seriously good wines. Based on this tasting I’d put 2015 alongside 2009 in terms of quality: it easily makes the Champions League but not all wines take the cup home.